MASTERS OF DISGUISE – THE FROGMOUTHS

FROGMOUTHS HIDE IN PLAIN SIGHT

Can any bird or animal camoflague  itself as successfully as the Australian  Tawny Frogmouth? They are truly astonishing. The only way I can find them in my garden  is to look for  splashes of their droppings below mature eucalypts . None of the photographs in this piece are mine, because the birds  tend to roost high in the trees and my little ‘point and shoot’  camera is just not up to the job.

Below is one of my favourite  images in nature , a frogmouth cradled in the ‘arms’ of a gum tree. My thanks to Vicki Burnett for allowing me to share this.

Tawny frogmouth in the arms of a gum tree.

In the arms of mother nature. (photo credit Vicki Terry Burnett).

Here is another of Vicki’s amazing  photographs.  Hard to spot eh? I still don’t understand  how they manage to match the colours of different barks.

 

Spot the tawny frogmouth.

Perfect alignment. (by Vicki Terry Burnett

The frogmouth’s ability  to simulate a jagged, broken branch has two benefits. Firstly, aggressive birds like currawongs are unlikely to spot it.

Towny frogmouth ptetending to be a branch.

Go away, I’m just a branch! (photo by Wanda Optland)

The other benefit is a bit creepy.   Tiny birds occasionally perch on the ‘branch’ by mistake.  Now although frogmouths hunt at night for frogs, moths and other delicacies, a free lunch never goes astray. If some unfortunate individual should  land on a frogmouth’s head it may rouse from its daytime slumber, open that wide mouth and…..gulp!

When the photo below was posted to an on-line bird site, people found it hard to believe what they were seeing. But it was true; a sweet little silvereye being devoured by dead branch that came to life.

 

Frogmouth devouring a silvereye.

Oh dear me, a bad mistake little silvereye. (Photo credit Mulligans Flat Nature Reserve)

A newspaper illustration from 1950 proves that  the frogmouth has always been an opportunistic, daylight feeder.

 

Tawny frogmouth dining on a small bird.

After I first posted this story a lady contacted me about  a frogmouth that nested on a pot on her deck. So much for my bit about them choosing a site high in a gum tree. Must have been a young apprentice!

Frogmouth nesting ina garden pot.

This will do! (photo credit Catherine McKinlay)

Frogmouth chicks have their own version of camoflague. They pretend to be children’s  fluffy toys.  remember those wide eyed  critters from the sixties called Gonks?

 

Gonks

Surely inspired by frogmouth chicks.

 

Sweet baby frogmouth chicks.

Infant woolly chicks.

It is still possible to look up and spot frogmouths in Sydney. However, in the most recent  national survey  of Australian birds even the iconic kookaburra was in decline. Foxes, cats, and loss of habitat due to development are all taking their toll.  A visit to the Angel Arcade off Sydney’s Martin Place is a beautiful, but sad reminder of what has already been lost. Sydney’s Lost Birds.

 

7 Comments
  1. Love your frogmouths

  2. The Tawny Frogmouth is a wonderful master of disguise. Ingenious too in taking advantage of any easy lunch

  3. Such amazing and unique birds. They have some rather eerie calls too. We really are fortunate in Australia to have such a wonderful variety.

  4. Thanks for sharing this. Living in Canada I have never seen anything like this. And I doubt I ever will! They are really amazing.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.

Notification of new stories via Email

Enter your email address to receive notification of new stories on this website (your address will not be shown).

Search Pandora

Find us in Pandora the National Library of Australia's archive of Australian online publications in perpetuity.